Chana and Her Seven Sons
(From the Book of Maccabees, II,7)
(See also Tractate Gittin 75b)
King Antiochus of Syria
wanted to demonstrate his mastery over his Jewish subjects. He wanted
to prove that he could overcome their stubbornness and force them to worship
idols and eat the meat of pigs.
A Jewish mother and her
seven sons were arrested and brought before mad Antiochus. The king
ordered that they be whipped and beaten until they ate the unclean meat.
The oldest brother said, "Are you trying to test us? We are ready to
die for the G-d of our ancestors!"
Antiochus was enraged.
He ordered that the boy be burned and dismembered; tortured with unspeakable
barbarism until he died. Mother and brothers looked on in horror and
encouraged one another to remain brave and firm.
One after another, Antiochus
brought the boys before him and ordered them to eat. And one after another
they defied him and proclaimed their loyalty to the Living G-d.
"You can take from us
only mortal life, but G d will make us live again."
"We are ready to die
at the hands of man, but never to deny our trust in Hashem"
"Do as you please with
us, but never doubt that when the time comes, Hashem will punish
you and raise up His people, Israel."
"Don't think that your
might sustains you. We are punished for our sins just as you will too
Finally, all were dead
except for the youngest, barely more than an infant. Even the sadistic
Antiochus felt a twinge of pity for the child and he spoke to him softly,
"Listen, my child. Eat
the meat and I swear to you that you will be wealthy and comfortable
for the rest of your life."
The child refused and
Antiochus saw that he was being defeated. Mighty king he was! Ruler
of half the civilized world he was! But he couldn't impose his will
on even a child. He was being humiliated. He couldn't allow the little
boy to defy him. Antiochus called Chanah to him.
“You saw six of your
sons die in terrible pain. He is your last and it is up to you to save
him. Convince him to eat the meat and both of you will be rewarded,
I swear it."
Chanah went to her last
little boy. "Look at the sky and the earth, my son, and remember Who
made them from nothing. Do not fear this murderer. Be worthy of your
The child looked at Antiochus
and cried out. "What are you waiting for? I won't listen to you; I obey
only the Torah. You will not escape the wrath of Hashem our
G-d just as we have not escaped it. All your arrogance and foolish pomp
will do you no good when you are judged by Hashem."
Antiochus flew into a
rage far beyond any before. He ordered that the little boy be tortured
more severely than any of the others. The child died. So did Chanah.
But the story of their
bravery inspired Jews throughout the country. The rebellion came not
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